Shootouts and intermissions make the NHL unwatchable


Shootouts are one reason the Couch Slouch can’t respect the NHL. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
January 12

I’ve already broken the only New Year’s resolution I made: Respect the NHL. Heck, I broke it less than 24 hours into the new year watching the annual Winter Classic go to a shootout.

Shootout?

What is this, an arcade game?

Okay, let’s review all the aspects of the NHL I cannot abide:

●The fighting, which I will not discuss any further today because, well, I’m not in a fighting mood.

●The nearly year-round schedule, which I also will not discuss today because, well, life’s too short to complain about hockey taking up too much of our calendar.

●The two intermissions per game, which I have complained about before and will complain about again today.

●The point system, which rewards teams for losing in overtime.

Before we get to any of that — and I’m already dealing with social media yapping about my anti-NHL bias just 125 words into this column — let me point out that I saw a photo on Deadspin capturing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman dozing off on opening night during the Capitals-Blackhawks game.

Uh, if the commissioner himself cannot keep his eyes open on sitewatching the defending champions, what are our chances of staying awake at home?

Now, I’ll give Bettman the benefit of the doubt and assume he fell asleep during one of the intermissions; fans sitting nearby probably thought it would be rude to awaken a napping power player.

(Column Intermission I: Odds I will be watching the first Pro Bowl draft on NFL Network on Jan. 22 — 1 in 7.2 trillion. Odds the world will explode because of NFL Network Pro Bowl draft hot air on Jan. 22 — 1 in 7,200.)

Two intermissions? That’s one too many; everything in sports already takes too long. The NHL needs to shift from three 20-minute periods to two 30-minute halves.

Who among us doesn’t prefer two acts to three acts? Spike Lee always has third-act problems. He doesn’t know how to end his movies — see “Jungle Fever.”

Tragically, Shakespeare plays were five acts. Five acts! Some, I believe — “King Lear,” for example — were five acts anda shootout. Trust me, there often was a beeline for the exits after the second or third act of “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Hamlet.”

(Column Intermission II: Springbrook High boys’ basketball is now 9-1 in what could be a title-season-in-progress. Here are the principals — the sublime Robinson twins, Andrew and Aaron; point guard Tavon Ngangum; East Carolina-bound-on-a-football-scholarship Alex Evans; and, of course, Stepson of Destiny Isaiah Eisendorf, joined by jumpin’ jack super sub Jermaine Ukaegbu. The coach is sage Tom Crowell, two-time Mid-Atlantic curmudgeon of the year.)

(P.S. I know some of you are thinking: If the NHL shouldn’t have two intermissions, how come you can have two? My column, my rules. Plus my intermissions take maybe 10 seconds.)

The NHL used to award teams two points for a victory and one point for a tie; it eliminated ties in 2005, and now it’s two points for a victory, one point for an overtime/shootout loss and no points for a loss in regulation. Theoretically, you could lose all 82 games in overtime, make the playoffs with 82 points and capture the Stanley Cup after going winless in the regular season.

Folks, I don’t care whether you lose 9-0 or 1-0 or in a shootout or by court order; you shouldn’t be rewarded for the quality of the defeat. What is this, the BCS? All wins are wins, and all losses are losses — I believe Archimedes first said this — and we shouldn’t be weighing results on some sliding scale.

But if you’re going to do it that way, I have run a complex metric through my abacus and determined that teams should get 2.75 points for a win in regulation, 2.33 points for an overtime win, 0.92 points for an OT loss on the road and 0.78 points for an OT loss at home.

All this two-intermission and overtime stuff reminds me of the reason I love air hockey: There’s a time limit. You pay your 50 cents, and three minutes later, you have a winner. And if there’s a tie, you just live with it. No shootouts.

Ask The Slouch

Q: Starting to tire of the “not in our house” spiel by home-team players before every game — was wondering if you ever heard that speech from current or former wives? (Bob Whitson; Greenwood, Ind.)

A: You’ve assumed, somewhat incorrectly, that any of my current or former wives ever spoke to me.

Q: Looking at Andrew Bynum’s body of work, can you explain the fact that eight NBA teams contacted the never-ready-to-play center after he was cut by the Bulls last week? (Dana Byrne; Houston)

A: Keanu Reeves still gets acting work, no?

Q: Here’s a layup for you, Slouch: How do you view sportswriter Dan Le Batard giving away his Baseball Hall of Fame vote to an eight-letter Web site? (Dave Erickson; Charleston, W. Va.)

A: Highly questionable.

Q: Did the Rooney Rule require that the Redskins interview at least one Native American for their head coaching position? (Neil Shawen; Falls Church)

A: Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com, and if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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